Monday, January 28, 2013

Staying home--budgeting

Graphic from

Can you afford to live on one income? 

Here is how I budget for our family. Maybe it will help??

First, I calculate our fixed expenses.

Examples of fixed expenses are payments for: 
  • mortgage
  • car(s)
  • water
  • sewer
  • electric
  • natural gas
  • cell phones
  • land-line phone
  • car insurance
  • house insurance
  • health insurance
  • real estate taxes
  • community association dues
  • trash pick-up
To get an accurate representation, I gather payment figures from the past year and then divide by 12 for the average. 

In the winter, our natural gas payments are through the roof and in the summer, they are next to nothing. The opposite is true with electricity--summertime is expensive and wintertime isn't. Averages help give a true picture of an entire year.

If you had to use one income, would there be any money left after subtracting the fixed expenses from this income?

If yes, that's great!

If no, don't lose hope. Hang in there with me.

I didn't include expenses for groceries, gasoline, clothes, kids' activities, entertainment, gifts, parties, doctor visits, veterinarian visits etc. These are variable expenses.

If you don't have enough money to cover fixed expenses...or if you don't think your leftover-after-fixed-expenses amount will cover variable expenses..then changes must be made to lower your fixed expenses.

Here are some ways to hack at those fixed expenses:
  • Shop around for better insurance rates.
  • Turn lights off when leaving a room.
  • Keep the house a little chillier in winter.
  • Keep the house a little warmer in summer.
  • Line dry clothes instead of using the dryer. Just hanging some on the shower curtain rod helps. The dryer is a HUGE electricity sucker.
  • Only run the dishwasher when it's full.
  • Review phone plans. Consider ditching a land-line phone.
  • If you have more than one car, decide if the second is a necessity. Eliminating a second car will also eliminate car insurance and maintenance for it.
  • Look into satellite TV instead of cable or the other way around. We actually got rid of our satellite TV in favor of Netflix on the internet. Saved us about $70  month.
 In general, be mindful of what you use and try to use less.

If you are open to the idea, a move could be in order. I won't suggest it necessarily other than to check into it. It is sometimes possible to remain in the same school district but move to an area with a lower tax rate and lower homeowner dues. It does cost money to make the move. There are so many fees! But if it saves in the long run--well, just do your homework.

After getting your fixed expenses lowered enough to have some leftover money for the variables, it's time to seriously consider staying home.

Now for the fun stuff!!

I love that I have control over our variable expenses. This is where my "job" keeps me incredibly busy at home.

Once again, those variable expenses are: groceries, gasoline, clothes, kids' activities, entertainment, gifts, parties, doctor visits, veterinarian visits etc. 

I believe I have an unusual philosophy when it comes to variable expenses. 

Instead of looking for ways to CUT spending...I would rather start from zero and add on as needed. 

Instead of saying:
"I spent $180 on groceries this week. That is unacceptable."
"We can do without the cold cereal and soda."
I will say instead:
"Nutrition for survival costs $50 a week."
"Anything else is bonus."

To me, saving money isn't about finding ways to spend less money. It's about finding ways to spend no money...and then caving in appropriately.

So much can be saved in the groceries category. If you eat out a lot, eat at home. If you eat at home, but eat a lot of processed foods, cook more from scratch. If you are cooking from scratch already, grow your own fruits and veggies. Keep going in this direction until you are doing all you can for yourself. (Total self-sufficiency is next to impossible, by the way, but a good goal to strive for.)

Car trips can be consolidated to save gas money. Stay home whenever possible. This is easy for homebodies. 

Hand-me-downs are a way of life around here. Using second-hand shops and garage sales not only save us money, but also make use of existing clothes. It's a green way of life.

Kids' activities can be so very expensive. My kids didn't participate in many activities in their early years. We did Girl Scouts and 4-H, but that was about it. We tend to put more emphasis on activities during high school. But that's just us.

Entertainment is almost laughable. We aren't from the "date night" generation. We try to do something nice on our anniversary, but we don't make much fuss typically. Our entertainment consists of inviting friends or family over to play board games or watch sports.

So many of the gifts I give are baked treats. Teacher gifts? Cookies. Friend's birthday? Cookies. Neighbor gifts at Christmas? Cookies.  For kids, we give them what they want. Toys usually. See, I cave in sometimes. :)

It is worth looking over your holiday/birthday lists to see which gifts may be created instead of purchased. Even if homemade goodies just supplement someone's gift, it will save you a bit. Planning is key.

For us, parties are usually held at home. We hosted a lot of backyard parties with goofy party games and snacks. No big whoop. 

As kids get older, parties become trickier.

Girls love slumber parties--no matter what age. You can get away with pizzas, cake and ice cream.  Add a movie and you're good to go.

I am usually at a loss with boys' parties. This year, I lucked out. A cover band was playing nearby (free tickets!). Well, we invited a handful of boys and just had some pizza and birthday cake quickly before leaving for the concert. I doubt I will ever be that fortunate again!

Doctor visits are unpredictable. I can only anticipate based on the past. One thing I do know...if there is a doctor expense, there is usually a prescription expense to accompany it. I just budget for a couple doctor/prescription fees per year. 

Veterinarian visits are easier to anticipate. They are the same every year...unless there is a problem. Just check around to make sure you are getting the best rates and keep your eyes open for promotional offers. Our veterinarian gives discounts on Fridays and Saturdays if we are willing to see an assistant instead of the doctor.

Other tips I could give would be to do your own yard work and your own car maintenance, but those are my husband's area. He is handy and rarely gets flustered about something. He studies up on the project at the time and jumps right in!

Curiosity and learning are extremely helpful!

Try some of these suggestions as a trial run while you are still working. Pocket the extra paycheck for savings (yay!) before eliminating an income stream.

Be true to the figures and don't quit your job based on emotion. 

And most importantly...make sure the budget agrees with you!

Good luck!

Stay tuned for:
Staying home--home-based businesses

Shared on these neighborly sites:
Found the Marbles 
The Prairie Homestead 
Natural Living Mamma


  1. A lot of great ideas for cutting back - thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks Antionette! Have a great day!! :)

  3. Living with only one income is difficult but it can be done. The lesson here is that if it's the life you dream for yourself and your family - make it happen! Thanks for this article. ~TMR~

  4. Great ideas! I'm always looking for ways to stay home. Thankfully I work as a seasonal fish and wildlife gal, so I'm home now, and my department is getting smaller,which a lot of folks are worried about, but I'm over here doing my happy dance,because it means I'll be a home mommy most of the year now! I love the idea of cookies for every gift! For kids I used to stick to things like art supplies (because I love it when my kids get gifts that will get used up and tossed, rather than add to our already too full toy box ;-) ) but recently started doing $10 dollar gift cards to an educational toy store nearby. The store will also give them $10 each birthday for joining the free birthday club, so they end up with 20 to spend, and it keeps me out of Wal mart where I invariably get more than I intended, AND it supports a small business, so that's like 3 birds with one stone! Keep sharing your great ideas!

    1. Congrats on heading home with your family. I can understand your co-workers' worries, but you've found the silver lining! Love your tips for art supplies as gifts and the gift cert. to the educational store. Kids love those stores...there is so much stimulation there. Have a lovely day!

  5. Great advice! You covered all the areas and helped me out for sure.
    Thanks for sharing on Natural Living Monday.

    1. Thanks Angela! I always learn so much on Natural Living Monday!!